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Keeping London working: global cities, the British state and London's new migrant division of labour

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This paper explores the emergence of a new ‘migrant division of labour’ in London. In contrast to a vision of ‘professionalization’, it shows that London's labour market has been characterized by processes of occupational polarization and that a disproportionate number of London's low-paid jobs are now filled by foreign-born workers. Drawing on original survey data, the paper explores the pay and conditions of London's low-paid migrant workers and develops a framework for understanding the emergence of a new migrant division of labour in London. In particular, the paper stresses the role of the British state in shaping this divide. The paper concludes that the emergence of such a divide in London necessitates a re-conceptualization of the place of migrant workers in the ‘global city’ and of the processes shaping global city labour markets, and outlines what this new division of labour might mean for politics and policy in London.

Keywords: global cities; low-paid work; migrant work/ers; new urban politics; the state; urban labour markets

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, London

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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